An entertaining introduction for young readers to the harmful effects of oil spills on marine wildlife.

THE OLD MAN AND THE PENGUIN

A TRUE STORY OF TRUE FRIENDSHIP

An unlikely friendship is forged between penguin and human.

João, who lives on the shore, spots an oil-soaked, immobile penguin. João cleans the bird and boats him back out to the water, but the penguin returns to João’s home. The two become friends, João even naming the penguin Dindim. Though instinct eventually leads the penguin back to the sea, four months later he returns—right to João’s door. He stays for eight months, returns to the ocean, and then revisits João again and again: “Just like clockwork every year, / João knows when he’ll appear.” An appended note states that this true story is based upon the experience of João Pereira de Souza, a retired bricklayer, and the Magellanic penguin who visits him annually at his home on Proveta Beach in Rio de Janeiro. The same note explains the effects of oil spills on wildlife. João and his partner have pale skin, but curious visitors with darker skin, including children, visit to meet Dindim. The breezy, sun-dappled illustrations of João’s home on the beach emphasize the bonding of the old man and the bird; in a couple, João even holds Dindim like a baby in his arms. The rhyming couplets that convey the narrative grow somewhat singsong and, therefore, monotonous, but the characters are endearing and the story, satisfying. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8-by-16.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

An entertaining introduction for young readers to the harmful effects of oil spills on marine wildlife. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0208-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Hee haw.

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THE WONKY DONKEY

The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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KNIGHT OWL

A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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